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  • by Trevor Loveday

Pollutants persist in English waterways

Every English river, lake and estuary fails to meet good status for hazardous chemicals due largely to the prevalence of persistent household pollutants according to the latest update from the Environment Agency (EA).

These ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (uPBT) substances include so-called forever chemicals derived from household items such as food packaging, non-stick kitchen utensil coatings and outdoor clothing as well as others chemicals from road traffic.

In its latest State of the water environment indicator evidence pack, the environment watchdog reported that while 92% of rivers in England along with 100% of lakes and 92% of estuaries are at good chemical status when uPBTs are excluded, all contain the offending chemicals. Because exceeding uPBT thresholds is widespread across the European Union, member states are allowed to present two assessments of chemical status, one including uPBTs and one excluding them “so that uPBTs don’t mask progress on other chemicals.”

Elsewhere in the EA’s report, the water sector is shown to lie alongside farming in its responsibility for adverse impacts England’s water bodies – both accounting for more than double the next highest culpability according to the Environment Agency.

The environment watchdog reported the water sector as impacting 44% of England’s water bodies with agriculture and rural land management at 45%. And pollution from wastewater affected 36% of water bodies while pollution from rural areas was seen in 40% – the two highest instances.


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